Bureaucrats dig in for fight to the finish with anti-digital TV diehards


Earlier this week, the government announced that as of the end of March, 83.8% of Japanese households had installed televisions or tuners for receiving terrestrial digital broadcasting signals. By April 2011, three months before the switchover to digital, the government aims to achieve 100% diffusion of digital reception capability, upon which Japan will pull the plug on analog broadcasts for good.

But Shukan Taishu (June 7) reports the claim may be exaggerated.

"The Ministry of Internal Affairs' vice minister, Masamitsu Naito, had been boasting that installation of digital sets is over 70%," an unnamed broadcast journalist is quoted as saying, citing earlier data. "But that's total BS. Actually households with two sets are tallied as two families, and those with three sets treated as three families. The actual diffusion rate is only around 50%."

Consumer foot-dragging on digital is reportedly particularly severe in mountainous or other geographically isolated areas with poor reception.

Yukio Ueki, a wage earner residing in Kanagawa Prefecture, lives in an area easily susceptible to interference.

"Over 30 years ago, equipment was installed so that everyone in the neighborhood shares one antenna," Ueki tells the magazine.

Then in preparation for the digital switchover, the local government in April 2009 unilaterally decided to set up digital-ready cable connections for all the homes in the area. When they met resistance, they tried to coerce the residents by notifying them of plans to disconnect the analog antenna.

"Their pretext was that the equipment was on its last legs," fumes Ueki. "But it was still usable."

According to Ueki, out of 60 million yen in installation costs, the cable company was paid about 25 million yen from public funds, with residents expected to make up the remainder.

Instead, the residents petitioned the Yokohama District Court for injunctive relief and the analog equipment remains in place -- at least for now.

"The first judge seemed favorably inclined toward the plaintiffs," says Kazumi Yoshii, a cartoonist who attended the hearings to draw sketches. "But from May 10, a different judge took over, and it was evident that the court's stance became more noncommittal. You couldn't help but suspect that someone in the background was pulling strings."

That "someone," Shukan Taishu suggests, might be the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, which is starting to become alarmed over the low installation rate of digital-ready TVs -- said to be only 26% as of March 2010 -- in difficult-reception areas

A news reporter covering the ministry agrees that the ministry worries a victory for Ueki's group would set back efforts to nudge communities into installing digital-ready equipment.

Some even debunk the claim that analog broadcasts must be terminated because of lack of available frequencies.

"The MCA band frequency, used mainly for citizens' band communications by trucks and taxis, only has several tens of thousands of users nationwide," the aforementioned broadcast journalist tells the magazine. "It boasts the same bandwidth as the one now being used by tens of millions of cell phone users."

The solution would be to dump the MCA channel. But thanks to the infamous "amakudari" system, former officials at the Ministry of Internal Affairs who have landed post-retirement positions at MCA-related organizations won't give up their cozy jobs without a fight.

"They're concerned that delays in the total switchover to digital, or extension of analog broadcasting, might cut into their vested interests," the journalist confides.

Makoto Odagiri, a writer who is familiar with communications issues, warns that as July 2011 approaches, the government may increasingly adopt strong-arm tactics in areas with low diffusion.

"I can't imagine people rioting in the streets, but I suppose some sorts of problems are going to crop up," he predicts.

© Japan Today

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I refuse to buy a new tv. Got plenty of tv and news on the net and on my iPhone. For those of you not in the knowing, on the net, check out fast pass tv, and fast pass movie . Most of it works great, but sometimes a glitch or two. Make sure you use firefox with an extra add on to stop some sneaky pop ups. If someone comes to me in my building to pay for a digital hook up, I am going to refuse.

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I think the new TVs are ridiculously expensive as well. All that flat screen crap. I am happy enough with the old style ones. You could buy a perfectly acceptable 26" color TV for $200 or so, less for smaller ones. Also changing channels in digital takes about 1-3 seconds per channel. The old, hardy analog changers would immediately show the next channel.

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Since I discovered YouTube, I haven't even touched my old analog TV except to dust the top. Every day that goes by I miss watching TV even less. Expecially NHK, which is stuck with the same programmes it had in the 1970s -- and the same people performing on them them!

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You three will be amazed with the clarity and convenience of digital TV. You can check the weather, top news, or what's on tonight with one click. Bought a 32 inch sharp aquous last year for 80,000 yen. Got 16,000 yen store points and 15,000 eco points. Best thing I've bought in Japan yet.

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After April 2011, no Japanese TV for me any more. I didn´t have the self discpline to do that before, now the Japanese government helped me. Thank you!

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I am not buying the idea that analog has to go because there are not enough frequencies. Fact is, there are terribly few available channels in Japan and its got nothing to do with available frequencies. There is no real reason to unplug analog at all.

Earlier this week, the government announced that as of the end of March, 83.8% of Japanese households had installed televisions or tuners for receiving terrestrial digital broadcasting signals.

Hard to believe anyone would believe that crap let alone claim it.

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You can check the weather, top news, or what's on tonight with one click.

So why do I need a digital TV? I can do all of that now, on an amazing entity called the Internet. With contents from any country and in any language I want -- sometimes even in Japanese.

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I left the UK 10 years ago and there were 5 channels - come back and with digital there appears to be hundreds! Guess that will happen too in Japan.

When I bought my last TV in Japan 7 years ago they were warning about the need to buy a digital compliant TV. Seeing as most gadgets like TV's have an intended useful life of 5 years I think they have been reasonable in their approach to the switchover.

Wait till after Japan flop out of the WC and TV prices will reduce significantly again.

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I am happy with Digital TV.

Do I watch much Japanese TV = No, but I do watch Skapa E2. Setup was easy for me as I already had a Fiber connection, just notified my ISP to switch digital TV on.

BTW, I also live in an area of poorish recepetion, can't get Digi-TV signal easy on my cel. No need to wait for the building owner to switch antennas.

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I left the UK 10 years ago and there were 5 channels - come back and with digital there appears to be hundreds! Guess that will happen too in Japan.

ROTFLMFAO! The Ministry of Corruption, sorry, Communications will absolutely never give up its chokehold on licensing of terrestrial broadcast stations. That's what makes outlay for the damn things a waste of money -- there won't be any contents. Expect round-the-clock reruns of 'Toyama no Kin-san', 'Zenigata Heiji' and 'Mito Komon'.

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I just wonder why there are no incentives like the US to change to Digital. Where is MY free digital tuner? The government will auction off the spectrum and make a load of cash-give it back to the citizens! Also, I cannot figure out why the TVs are so expensive. LCD monitors of a similar size are significantly cheaper-why?

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Most of the TV's I have seen also got one or multiple BS/CS tuners build in and also allow for a variety of input signals like multiple HDMI Ports, A4, PC, AV, etc.

One reason why I went for a no-name brand TV, cost about the half the japanese model.

I often see brand-name overseas appliances selling cheaper than the equivalent local model.

Now what I don't understand why digital recorders are still so pricey, can't be due to HD size as 1.5TB disks are very cheap now.

Added a Torne and a 1.5TB drive to my PS3 and cost me around 25.000Yen.

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I hope there will be no restrictions. I would like to watch BET, VH1 & HBO, Showtime, Cinemax, animal planet and etc.. But that's just wishful thinking. Cable tv in Japan is so-so. Hopefully they will add more variety.

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You can and have been able to watch many of those channels or their contents for years.

Not sure what cable-TV you seen here but most is simply sattelite(Sky-perfect) streamed via cable.

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getting your panties in a bunch over Japanese tv.. who needs it anyway?

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Words cannot realy describe just how much I dislike Japanese mainstream TV. Watching these variety shows is like having a root canal treatment without anethesia. So much of the content is lowbrow and foolish. So I don't really care at all about digital or analog broadcast of TV here.

That said, I have a flat screen and cable so I can watch a small number of TV shows that actually have a story or meaningful content. And we watch a lot of indie cinema on DVD that we import from various countries.

So I recommend switching to digital for DVD and CATV if you like international programming. But J-TV isn't worth 10 yen worth of upgrade.

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tkoind2, who watches variety shows? Kids. I only turn on my TV for the 11 o'clock news.

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tkoind2, who watches variety shows? Kids. I only turn on my TV for the 11 o'clock news.

And who on earth buys a large TV set just for the 11 o'clock news?!!!!!!!!!!! And so what if you get to see the weather forecast on a digital HD TV? I can see it on my old TV, in the newspapers, on the internet. Seeing it in high resolution isn't going to make the sun come out any quicker.

I'm with Beelzebub and the others - internet is enough. I can get all sorts of news from Japanese sources on Youtube or even on their own websites. And where are the cheap digital tuners? I won't be buying a new TV and I'm thinking of getting rid of my present one. Nothing to watch. The only good things are the nature documentaries, many of which are imported.

One thing I wish the new TVs would have is the function to block the faces of tarentos on the corner of the screen and cancel out the 'sugois' and 'eeehs' coming from the background. Sorely needed.

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Not sure how cheap you want Digital-Tuners to be.

My Seiyu(Walmart) has them as low as 4.900Yen.

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Government should stay out of this. Private companies have enough potential to deliver the TV service that people actually want!

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Digital tV is great, if you don't want to buy a new TV just try and get a much cheaper digital converter box. As others have said, when you have a digital channel it comes along with many sub-channels and the clarity is fantastic. i.e. Instead of getting channel 4 only, you'll get channel 4.2, 4.3, 4.4 + and each of those while by the same broadcasting station can have totally different programs on. Its really really worth it.

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One feature I love about myt Digital TV is that I can watch the program schedule and lock in a program I want to view. 1 minute before it starts the TV will switch to that channel automatically.

Great for me as I often forget time while I use the TV as PC-Monitor or while gaming on the console.

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It doesn't matter where in the world I go and stay calling that place home. All TV has been 'raped' over by the Cable and Telcos that now I stay clear of them and just get the fastest 'net connection to get my fix of 'tv and local/world news'. Movies and tv series are either BR, DVD or downloads and then watched on whatever screen just happens to be in that room. I now network every room in the place and have on demand video from our own media server, online cloud servers and streaming signals from a NAS at friends' places. This is the way to go. The next time NHK comes knocking on your door to 'collect' the 'tv tax' just tell you don't have a tv and then close the door or better yet just open the door in your knickers scratching your bits and ONLY speak NON-Japanese. :)

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Man.. I had some months the cable TV, and it was a piece of useless thing. I don't think that the digital channels will bring anything better.

My TV is off all the time, so I'm not changing to digital unless I get a free digital tuner!

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As long as my TV keeps working, I'm gonna keep using it until July of next year.

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TV in Japan is typically Japanese-- great on hardware, but lousy on software (=brains).

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Try using usb tv! It's great! I download all the quality stuff - outside Nippon!

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Had digital interactive tv in UK in 1998, now it has over 45 channels and loads of radio channels. I won`t get Japanese one and NHK have never com round anyway.

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